A pleural effusion is a build-up of fluid in the area between the lung cavity and the lining of the lungs. This excess fluid can cause breathing problems as it limits how much the lungs can expand.

What causes a pleural effusion?

There are a number of conditions that could cause a pleural effusion. These conditions include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • pneumonia
  • liver cirrhosis
  • end-stage kidney disease
  • asbestos-related conditions including mesothelioma, asbestos lung cancer and asbestosis.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of a pleural effusion can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • a dry cough
  • sharp chest pain
  • fever

It is important to seek medical advice if you have these symptoms as without treatment a pleural effusion can cause a collapsed lung.

How is a pleural effusion diagnosed?

A pleural effusion can be diagnosed by a chest x-ray. If more than 300ml of fluid has collected in the lung it will show on an x-ray. However, prior to this it can be difficult to see.

Once a pleural effusion has been diagnosed a sample of the fluid may be taken for testing, this is done through a thoracentesis. A thin needle is inserted into the chest and fluid is removed and sent for analysis. Testing the fluid helps determine what has caused the effusion.

How can a pleural effusion be treated?

A pleural effusion can be treated in a number of ways. Firstly, a thoracentesis procedure can be done to remove the fluid. This will help to alleviate the symptoms. However, it does not address the cause of the effusion.

A treatment which can provide a more long-term solution to the fluid build-up is a pleurodesis procedure. The fluid is removed by a thoracentesis, then the two layers of the lung (pleural) lining are irritated to cause inflammation and scarring. This fuses the two layers together and closes the space so there is nowhere for the fluid to build.

A pleurodesis is a painful procedure and, as it needs inflammation to work, patients are limited as to what painkillers they can take. In the long-term, however, many patients find it to be a worthwhile procedure.

How can we help?

If you require assistance in pursuing an asbestos compensation claim for mesothelioma or other asbestos disease then please contact us today on our freephone number 0800 038 6767. Alternatively, head over to the ‘Contact Us’ page, complete the form and we will be in touch.

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